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Original Title:
7 gwanggu

South Korea 2011

Action, Horror

Kim Ji-hun

Ha Ji-won
Ahn Sung-ki
Oh Ji-ho
Cha Ae-ryeon
Lee Han-wi
Song Sae-Byeok
Park Cheol-min
Park Jeong-hak

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Sector 7

Story: On an oil rig near Jeju Island "sector 7" is located and it is said that there is a vast amount of oil to be found there. Sadly, Hae-joon (Ha Ji-won), the leader of the team searching for the black gold, hasn't found any oil yet and so the government is about to shut down the project. Hae-joon's superior and uncle, Jung-man (Ahn Sung-ki), arrives at the oil rig in order to ensure that everyone gets back to the Korean peninsula safely. But Hae-joon can convince her uncle to plead the government to give them a few more months. Hae-joon's stubbornness pays off as the team actually hits oil. Apart from that they also find some strange little creatures in the sea which the biologist on the rig examines further. However, suddenly dead bodies pile up. While at first everyone suspects that someone on the rig has become a murderer it soon turns out that some kind of monster out of the sea is striking terror into people's hearts. Because of a heavy storm there is also no possibility to evacuate the place and so the team has to fight for survival.

Review: "Sector 7" is groundbreaking in at least one respect: It is the first Asian 3D IMAX movie. You can think what you want about the whole 3D-madness but considering the half-baked technology I have yet to be convinced widening my equipment accordingly. This means that this review is about the simple 2D-version of the movie. And the overall impression of the movie isn't all that great. Why that is can be answered quite easily. "Sector 7" is a straightforward monster flick that has to struggle with the same problems as most horror flicks, that is a half-cooked screenplay and shallow characters that can spoil the fun by quite some degree. There certainly is fun to be found towards the end, tough, if you aren't one of those viewers with a deep-rooted aversion for the genre. Sadly, that surely doesn't make "Sector 7" a good film. Even the more as we know since "The Host" that you can also bring a socio-critical monster film to the screen if you just have the right screenplay!

"Sector 7" starts, as is typical for the genre, with an introduction of the individual characters and the relationship between them. This is all done in a feel-good atmosphere on the oil rig on which Hae-joon has to prove herself in a crew that mainly consists of men. She does so very well and so she even got the name "hardass". Ha Ji-won ("Closer to Heaven", "The Duelist"), as much as it pains me to say that, can't really convince in this role at first. This may also be because of the whole atmosphere that weaves something ridiculously heroic around the workers. The well attuned team could even be shooting a promo for the army if you just look at the first scenes. Fortunately, this changes later on and amazingly enough Ha Ji-won can deliver quite well in the action department. However, until then the audience has to deal with character drawings that aren't well elaborated at all.

Well, character drawings might be a bit exaggerated, because there are actually only clichés running around on deck of the oil rig. For instance there is the chicken-hearted captain, a retard in love, a comedian, the eternal rookie etc. Hae-joon, although always portrayed as a tomboy, even has a small love story with someone who solely stands out with his looks. Oh Ji-ho ("My Wife is a Gangster"), who plays that role, could have been removed from the film without any problems and no one would have noticed. The movie gets enriched by the appearance of Ahn Sung-ki ("Fair Love", "Nowhere to Hide"), who mainly stands out because of the fact that his character has more facets and also carries a secret. Nevertheless, you shouldn't expect anything great from him either, as he can only work with what the screenplay provides him with and as already stated this surely isn't that much. Therefore, there is not really any character left we would be sad for being eaten by the monster.

This also serves as a good transition to talking about the monster's aims. Why does it hunt down everyone on the oil rig? Since it is driven by animal instincts it will hunt in order to eat. In fact, we never really see it eat up anyone, though. Instead it preserves its prey. For its offspring? In one scene we see that the creature has laid some eggs. However, that is of no real importance at all and in the course of the movie this is a fact that is never picked up again. The crew has enough trouble fighting a single monster after all. Because even though it bleeds an easily inflammable substance and therefore burns quite good the creature can't be brought down. This is also what constitutes the actual appeal of the crew's fight for survival. The monster is frequently hurt bad and after every injury it seems to undergo some sort of metamorphosis and continues going hunting as if nothing happened. We may get to know where that creature comes from later on but this solely serves as a plot lead-in which is told in a minute.

Apart from the numerous plot holes - so why can the monster breathe air, although it comes from the sea (?) -, that also includes a heroine who is defined by having more luck than brains, the excessive use of a green screen is very apparent, too. Especially when this simply wouldn't have been necessary. The monster itself looks quite convincing during most scenes, but not at all times. If the filmmakers had shown it on screen more scarcely the special effects could have been more convincing. By the way, the creature strongly reminded me of the monster in "The Host". Not really a surprise there.
After having checked your brain at the door you can still have a fun ride with "Sector 7". Ahn Sung-ki's fight with the monster is as captivating as Ha Ji-won's showdown with the creature. In those well defined duels of the two characters against the monster there is also to be found a certain dynamic the sort of you don't get to see in every monster film. For genre fans this might be a reason to check it out, anyone else can skip this film and won't miss anything. At least Ha Ji-won proves to have the potential for being the next Korean action heroine.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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